Silicosis is a lung condition that develops due to the inhalation of excessive amounts of silica dust. In this progressive condition, complaints such as coughs and shortness of breath usually occur. Silicosis disease, which is in a group of diseases defined as pneumoconiosis, is caused by environmental factors in the work environment. Various dust particles reaching the lungs during breathing cause damage to the tissue of this organ and cause discomfort. Silicosis is the most common type of pneumoconiosis in the world. You can read the rest of our article to get more detailed information about this ailment.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a pneumoconiosis condition caused by the inhalation of crystalline silicon dioxide powder into the lungs during breathing. Silica dust is contained in minerals such as sand, stone, and quartz. After prolonged inhalation of these powders, silica begins to accumulate in the lungs and respiratory tract. After the accumulation, damage to the tissues may occur, and the breathing of the person may be adversely affected.
In general, silicosis is a disease that is examined in 3 types. Acute (sudden onset) silicosis is a type of silicosis that occurs after a few weeks to 2 years of exposure to high amounts of silica. In chronic (long-term) silicosis, there is exposure to low amounts of silica dust over a wide period of time. Complaints that may occur from this type of silicosis may take years to occur. Chronic silicosis is the most common type of silicosis. Care should be taken as complaints that are mild at first may worsen gradually over time. In the case of accelerated (rapid) silicosis, a disease picture may develop within 5–10 years after exposure to extremely intense silica dust. In this type of silicosis, the worsening of the complaints is quite rapid.
What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?
The symptoms that may occur in the early stages of this disease in individuals who develop silicosis are generally as follows:
- dry cough
- Chest pain
- Unusual shortness of breath during strenuous activity
It should be kept in mind that in some individuals, no symptoms may occur in the early stages of the disease. In general, after exposure to silica dust, the full settlement of the silicosis disease picture occurs after a period of 10–20 years (chronic silicosis). In some cases, the disease picture may appear in a shorter period of time. In the case called “accelerated silicosis,” the symptoms of the disease may occur within 5–10 years of exposure to high levels of silica dust. In some cases where there is a higher amount of silica dust exposure, the disease picture called acute silicosis can be seen. In this case, the symptoms occur in a short period of time, such as weeks and months, and the complaints that occur are more severe than in other forms of the disease.
In advanced cases, complaints such as cough and shortness of breath can reach very serious dimensions, while other symptoms such as extreme weakness and arm or leg edema can be added to the disease picture. In some advanced cases, a condition called pulmonary hypertension may develop due to the increase in pressure in the vessels going from the heart to the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension results in the inability of the right structures of the heart to adequately pump blood over time. This condition, called right heart failure, can result in life-threatening respiratory failure due to the body not getting enough oxygen and not removing carbon dioxide from the body in sufficient quantities.
The reason why symptoms occur decades after exposure to silicosis is that this dust does not directly damage the lungs. In other cases of chemical inhalation, the complaints occur after exposure, while the accumulation of silica dust in the lungs and the occurrence of symptoms are due to overstimulation of the immune system. The main purpose of the immune cells fighting this dust in the lung tissue is to remove the dust from the lungs. Failure to fully fulfill this purpose results in an excessive level of inflammation. Some immune system elements that remain active for a long time cause damage to the lungs. As a result, wound development is observed in the lung tissue. This process explains the continuation of the symptoms caused by silicosis after exposure.
Silicosis Is Caused By What?
Silicosis is basically a disease that occurs after exposure to silica dust. For this disease, which can occur in acute, chronic, or accelerated form, the subtype of the disease is related to the degree and duration of exposure. During breathing, silica dust that is drawn into the lungs settles in the airways. In areas where dust settles, damage occurs over time, and the resulting scar tissue results in more difficult breathing.
Occupational groups with the highest exposure to silica dust can be summarized as follows:
- Mine workers
- Quarry workers
- Those working in the steel industry
- A construction worker
- Employees in glass production facilities
- Road maintenance workers Wall
- builders Roofing
- workers Tunnel
- construction workers
People in these occupational groups are at increased risk for the development of silicosis disease. For this reason, it is very important for individuals in this type of profession to protect themselves with the right equipment. How Is Silicosis Diagnosed?
It is recommended that individuals with silicosis symptoms apply to health institutions as soon as possible. In order to reveal silicosis in the first evaluation of patients by physicians, it is first evaluated whether the person works in risky occupational groups. In cases with suspected silicosis, it is evaluated whether there is any damage to the lung tissue with various examinations at a later stage. Lung X-ray is the first-line examination that can be applied in this context. In the lung films of silicosis cases, silica dust can be detected as small, white spots. Bronchoscopic
examinations are also very useful in cases of suspected silicosis. Through this examination, which allows a small and flexible tube to be advanced through the trachea and observe the respiratory system structures through the camera on the tube, it can be evaluated whether changes related to the disease, such as damage to the lung tissue and fluid accumulation, have occurred.
How is silicosis treated?
Silicosis is not a disease that can be eliminated with any specific drug or treatment method. The main purpose of treatment planning in individuals diagnosed with silicosis is to control the complaints that occur. Cough medicines and antibiotics can be effective in controlling the susceptibility to lung infections such as dry cough and pneumonia in these individuals. With the use of various inhaler drugs, the narrowed airways in these cases can be widened. In some advanced cases, people can be given oxygen support with a mask. It is very important for people diagnosed with silicosis to quit bad habits that can harm the lungs, such as tobacco use.
Silicosis is a very severe lung disease that can occur in various occupational groups and can be prevented by improving working conditions. It is very important to be aware that the risk of getting this disease can be minimized by providing the necessary equipment. At the same time, the level of silica dust in the work environment can be determined by regular analysis in the work environment. If you observe the signs and symptoms of silicosis, which is a progressive disease, in yourself or in your environment, it is recommended that you apply to the nearest health institution and get support from specialist physicians.